tv The Communicators CSPAN March 21, 2011 8:00am-8:30am EDT
trade commission chairman jon leibowitz along with representatives from the computer industry and the american civil liberties union. see this tonight at 8:30 eastern, 5:30 pacific. >> tonight on c-span, marking the eighth anniversary of the department of homeland security with former secretaries tom ridge and michael chertoff and current secretary janet napolitano. they discuss the nature of threats facing the country, the structure of the agency and what they miss most about the job. >> people have asked me do i miss being secretary, and to a certain extent i say, yes, i miss working with the people and their hard work, particularly in the early months and years. it was very tense but an exciting time, and when you're around good people, it's a great cause associated with it. i miss not knowing. e mean, not that everything we read every morning, michael or janet, was something you'd want to run home and talk to the
family and kids about, but you do miss not knowing. >> former secretaries discuss the department of homeland security tonight at 8 p.m. eastern on c-span. >> "the communicators" is on location at the seventh annual state of the net conference sponsored by the internet caucus of congress. joining us now is dr. william lehr of massachusetts institute of technology where he is a researcher on the communications futures program. first of all, dr. lehr, what is the communications futures program? >> >> guest: communications futures program is an attempt to look across the value chain of the internet. so from equipment providers to service providers to application providers and not just in the u.s., but internationally. so we work together, several schools at mit, with industry partners both internationally and domestically to look at various issues confronting the
internet. and the idea is to try and think about technologically aware policy and business strategy and business strategy aware technology and sort of try and bridge that gap. >> host: what are you thinking about most these days? >> guest: well, with the internet there's a lot of things to think about. we personally, i spend a lot of time thinking about wireless issues, and i come out of a regulatory economics research background, and so i'm especially interested in all the sort of nontechnical side of, like, policy and business strategy, how that interacts with the internet. so, you know, how do we insure healthy investment climate for the internet, how would we design next generation internet architectures, how might we manage radio spectrum are some of the issues identify been thinking about -- i've been thinking about recently.
>> host: when you fraughted from the university of pennsylvania, you graduated in an era of floppy disks, computer laps and dial-up mow dumbs. >> guest: yeah. >> host: where -- what did you see in the future in 1979? >> guest: you know, at the time, you know, the notion that we would be getting to something like more what we have today, there were lots of people talking about that, and if you were interested in technology, you could see it. the fact if i had been asked at the time to make any specific predictions, the likelihood that any of those predictions except in the most general terms would have been absolutely wrong, i think, would have been 100%. and it wasn't just me, it was people who were in the business of making predictions at the time. while you could read orwell's "1984" which we couldn't have done in 1984 or 1994, but we're getting pretty damn close to being able to do in 2004. those sorts of images, the
possibility of that kind of information everywhere, know everything about you, all these sorts of things, i think people were certainly talking about. >> host: well, let's talk about privacy then, privacy on the internet. is the cow out of the barn at this point, and it's too late to close the door? >> guest: well, i think from a practical point of view, yeah, the horse is out of the barn. i've heard someone say that even though the horse is trotting out of the barn, you might want to hang on the reigns and slow -- reins and slow it down. we've gotten to the point where anybody who wants to know anything about you can if they're willing to do it. and protecting someone's ability to know something about you is probably not, not feasible. we can design technologies to make that better, make it harder to use, but we need to focus on how the information is used and really reconstruct -- and this is a social debate in addition to a technical debate -- what about privacy do we really care
about and do we want to preserve? so i think it's a dialogue. there's a lot of things that people don't understand. so, for example, a lot of what you want from a new technology in terms of customization, seamless behavior, self-configuration, applications just working the way i want them to work depends on these people knowing lots of the applications, knowing lots of things about you that if you knew, you may say i'm concerned about that. i think, certainly, one of the first things we need to do is get people more aware of what other folks know and disclosure so people understood like, you know, what information do you know about me, and can i check that? those are some of, i think, the principles where you're going to get the best sort of policy initiatives to try and detect those. >> host: do you bank online? >> guest: i bank online, i do all this stuff online. part of it, again, is because i realize that, one, if i were to sort of avail myself of the privacy options that i have, there are a lot of people at
mit, for example, that are extremely paranoid, you know, because they know, and they do all kinds of stuff, they will not bank online. it's too inconvenient not to do that. and one of the things i do is i'm lots of people online. so, you know, go find the real me. i have probably 40 or 50 e-mail addresses, you know, google my identity. you'll find me, but you'll also find ten versions of me that aren't me. >> host: you talked about the fact that some of your research focuses on the regulatory environment. we're here in washington, generally how would you describe the regulatory environment right now? >> guest: i think it's an environment that's in transition. i organized a workshop with international support back in 1998 on sort of focusing on, you know, hey, we ought to be thinking about internet policy into the future. you know, the largest sort of regulatory phenomenons happen anything the west is the notion that markets do a better job than sort of centralized
planning. the whole kind of like the soviet union pre-1989 bad idea capitalism good markets, and i agree with the that, the whole economics profession agrees with that except for a few outliers. markets are just differently regulated, and i i think what we're trying to struggle through now is how to difficultly regulate. we're in a big transition that's ongoing, so cable television, broadcast, telecommunications, we're not in the position to just sort of tear that house down completely and say we want nothing there, but we haven't yet figured out how we map this to the internet which is the new pstn, the new essential infrastructure that we want to think about how to regulate. i'd like to see that done in a way that's responsive to market processes, but i think that means thinking that there is a role for public regulation. it's a question of how to do it. you know, what is light-handed
regulation, and it can't be no regulation. i mean, that's not realistic politically, and it's not a fact. so i think we need to embrace -- that it needs to be something affirmative and think about what that is. >> host: so is the fcc versatile and limber enough to regulate today's world? >> guest: i don't think there's any perfect, there's any sort of perfect institution here, and there are a number of players in this space, it's a multistakeholder game. so, for example, the standard bodies, other sorts of quasimarket-based organizations all have a role to play as well as international bodies. in the u.s. if i look at a regulatory authority and say who is the one that's the most up to speed and in the best position to do this, i think it has to be the federal communications commission. i certainly wouldn't want to create something else. that having been said, i think we need to think about, you know, what is the right role for the federal communications commission, and, you know, what
authority should it be operating under. >> host: what about international regulation given the worldwideness of the net? >> guest: well, i mean, we don't do a particularly great job of international regulation of anything from, you know, international slave trafficking in humans -- all that sort of stuff. i don't think most of the people on the technical side are comfortable, for example, with like the u.n. regulating the internet. i think a lot of the people sort of old internet hands are pretty happy with the sort of nongovernmental organizations that have done this in the past, but i think there are real questions about whether or not they scale. and all of the current sort of, you know, if you said, okay, which international agency would to this, the itu? all you have to do is say that in an industry forum, and you get this collective broken. i think -- groan. i think the industry needs to be
very proactive because i don't think it's a reasonable position for them to take that, you know, they can essentially push off any kind of meaningful interwith national regulation or cooperation forever, and they need to think, they need to help the people that don't want it to be something like the etu or the u.n., give -- itu or the u.n., give them some alternatives to work with. >> host: but when we hear with buzz, they before business, they ask for certainty. there's rules here in the u.s., the e.u., china, iran -- >> guest: ercertainly pure randomness on the part of government behavior is a deterrent to investment like almost anything is. but there's nothing that's certain, and we change things all the time. i think the notion that, you know, setting forth a framework, there are different sorts of things that could be changed. for example, the net neutrality principles that were espoused by colin powell, at the time i
didn't think that made a whole lot of sense, and i didn't think that actually they had a lot of teeth, so i wasn't in favor of them. roll forward a number of years, and you find those principles, everybody agrees with. nobody's come out and said, basically, people shouldn't have an access to used content that is legal, they shouldn't be able to attach devices that wouldn't hurt the thing, and they shouldn't have choice. those basic principles, everybody sort of accepted. the question then is, what grow do -- what do you do beyond that? and i think the fcc, you know, with december order, i think, was attempting to move forward. i think that's an ongoing dialogue. i think the fcc has a role to play in it. i was sort of not terribly comfortable with the original, for example, fcc rules on nondiscrimination largely because i didn't think they were ultimately enforcen, and i think they get you into a whole lot of ore problems about, you know -- other problems, you know, they beg more questions than the answer.
is interconnection part of the access, can you regulate access without regulating interconnection? a whole bunch of other questions come up that i don't think we're in a good position politically or even technically, really, to sort of figure out how exactly we want to answer. so i think if you looked as those principles and you sort of said, okay, i'm not really sure what these mean, but i think i can tell you about egregious examples, everybody would say that violates these. are there plenty of examples of gray area close to these principles that i wouldn't know how to add adjudicate? yeah. the question is, are those problems we have to deal with right mow? i think the answer is, no. >> host: the dynamic of a republican house of representatives, what does that add to the regulatory debate and discussion? >> guest: ideally, i would hope nothing because, you know, historically communications policy has been largely nonpartisan, and i think if, for example, this became a partisan issue, it would be bad communications policy. if there are positive things
that, for example, the tea party or republicans can come in and do, i think looking really hard at things like uniwith versal service reform. you have an $8 million entitlement. it makes no sense to me for this to be an entitlement program for telephone service. the idea that you need to subsidize people's access to telephone, that's -- you don't need to do that. people will buy telephones even if they're taking food out of their kids' mouths. you don't need to subsidize that. that's a different problem. there are poor people out there. you really need to think about what the nation's program is. if you say i'm investing in broadband because i'm informing in something called basic infrastructure and i'm going to move that over, does it need to be a billion dollars? i seriously question that. but, certainly, should i refocus it? yes. and i would hope, like, the tea party would help us think about this question hard and say, no,
no, no, just doing business as it's always been, here's an opportunity to take a big, fat cow and either make it justify itself or let's, you know, cut it up and sell it as meat. >> host: what's the next revolution in technology that you're concentrating on? >> guest: well, there's a bunch. i mean, i think two -- one area that i'm personally really interested in is wireless as we sort of inte great ubiquitous computing, but that's one big step towards the policy point of view which is, you know, we've managed to sort of take with the internet data communications and tying computers because everybody's on computers. and with wireless we've said mobile, so everybody's everywhere at least in principle. of course, they're not, and making sure everybody is a lot of what policy's about. the next big thing is how do we take the real world and hook it together with the cyber w0r8? when that happens, we have our environment making more decisions for us which is already happening. i mean, you know, when you walk
in a store through a door, an automatic door, you lift up the hood of your car, you're seeing electronics that john q. public doesn't know how to fix it. it's not like when i was in college, and i could lift the hood of my car, i could badly replace the water pump. today i don't even know where the water pump is. many, many more decisions are going to be made by computers on our behalf, and are we comfortable with the technologies designed to implement those, where the connection points are, all this sort of stuff. >> host: currently, is there consistency between wireless or mobile regulation and fixed? >> guest: i think, you know, for good reason, but i think more of harmization rationalization of that is going to need to happen. i think if you looked today and said mobile broadband, fixed broadband, is that the same service so it needs to be regulated the same way, i think the answer's no. there's a real need for mobile
broadband than fixed broadband. for a big chunk of users and especially maybe people at the bottom, they may be substitutes. it may say if i could have both, i'd have both, and i'd get different, possibly, services or functionality off those two services, but if i've got, you know, a short budget, i've got to make a decision, i'll choose one or the other. some will choose fixed and some will choose mobile. i think the poor people more will choose mobile. >> host: william lehr is a researcher with the communications futures program at the massachusetts institute of technology, thank you for being on "the communicators." >> guest: real pleasure. thank you. >> host: author and cnet columnist larry downes is also participating at the state of the net conference sponsored by the congressional internet caucus. mr. downes, in your most recent book, the title is "the laws of disruption." where did that title come from? >> guest: actually work i did several years ago where i started looking at how technology and business
interacted with each other, and one of the things i realized what we sometimes called disruptive technology got faster and more disruptive, the ability of businesses, now the ability of consumers to respond as quickly as the technology makes possible was getting further and further apart, and the gap that was created between the speed of technology and the speed of change was causing all this disruption. >> host: what's an example of disruptive technology? >> guest: well, of course, the one we're all talking about here is the internet, that's probably been the most disruptive technology of the last 50-100 years. it's sort of on par with the steam engine and the early industrial age. it's very, it's supplanted many network technologies that people thought were very well established. well, like ibm had sna, and there were all these proprietary networking technologies that kept things in compartmentalized, rigid boxes, all, of course, completely focused on business. along comes the internet not intending to be even a
commercial technology, let alone a consumer technology. but because of its openness, because it was not opened by anybody, it, you know, became the least common denominator standard, and everything took on the internet as its networking standard. and, of course, as we know, it's turned businesses upside down, it's changed the nature of consumers and businesses, changed the nature of citizens and their boths, it's been -- governments, it's been disruptive. >> host: are apps disruptive? >> guest: yes. i think of that as the next wave of this transition. i wrote a book in this 1998 called "unleashing the killer app." at that time we were talking about web sites. web sites were in very early stages. well, now, of course, what's causing the disruption are these much, much smaller pieces of software, mostly running on mobile devices, and the app economy, i think, is going to be the next big wave of how the internet disrupts tradition always of doing his. >> host: what are you doing here at the state of the net
conference? >> guest: many years ago i started to realize the way in which governments interact with how disruptive technologies work could have a big impact on how quickly things got adapted or how well they got adapted, and i started advising my clients to not pay so much attention to their lawyers, but to actually engage themselves in understanding how policy was being debated about core technologies that their business relied on and making sure that they understood not just the technologies, but how government may or may not interfere. that was the only way really to be effective in making sure the right kinds of laws got made or didn't get made as the case may be. >> host: what's your general philosophy when it comes to federal regulation of the internet, of technology, of silicon valley, etc. >> guest: well, my general view, and it only applies to what i've described as disruptive technologies is because of their very nature, how quickly they spread, the ways in which they take on new uses that nobody expected or intended, it makes a very, very poor fit for
government in general. government, obviously, is very deliberative by design, it's very slow and methodical when you're trying to regulate a speedboat. well, you're standing on the dock, the results are almost always bad, and so as sort of a general rule i think regulating disruptive technologies generally leads to bad and unintended consequences that nobody wants and nobody would want if they only knew what was going to happen. >> host: what is cnet? >> guest: it's cbs interactive, a network that's focused on technology and technology policy in my case. the readership is largely a technical readership or people who are interest inside the latest and greatest new devices and gadgets. >> host: so you're a columnist for cnet, but what is your day job, your main business? >> guest: i'm a consultant, that's what i've always been. it's moved from doing what i used to do which was more strategy consulting, helping companies figure out how these disruptive technologies were going to change their supply
chains or their business relationships or who their customers or products were over the last couple of years, it's moved, i think, because of the way the world has changed much more into how do policy decisions, court cases, regulations, potential new laws both u.s. and globally, how those effect strategy and what to do proactively about them to see business can continue to expand. >> host: what technologies aren't disruptive? >> guest: well, you know, the basic distinct between a disruptive technology and an incremental technology is very hazy. but, you know, we think of things like, oh, the next release of the operating system, the sort of, you know, an upgrade to your existing products, you know, from be one year's turbotax to the next, generally not very disruptive. one version of the iphone to the next, largely incremental. these are things that i think consumers in particular can adapt very quickly, but, you know, when a tablet computer
suddenly arrives, it's got new uses, we don't really even know what metaphors to apply to it, we don't know what to call it. you know, is this a book, is this a computer? it's kind of like when the car came out, and we referred to it as a horseless carriage because we didn't know what it really was. when you have one of those, then it's a disrupt i technology. >> host: in the next x number of months or years, what do you see as the next big disruptive technology? >> guest: well, the mobile revolution will continue, and it will be coupled with this movement from sort of isolated data activities to what's known as the cloud where both our data and our processing and, again, this is both from a business and a consumer standpoint, more and more of it moves off our individual devices and into this cloud, this network of computers and different service providers and different kinds of companies who will manage it for us, who will provide services with it. those two put together is really creating a remarkable
opportunity for businesses to be global overnight for consumers to connect and do things, not only business things, but also social things immediately and on a scale unprecedented in previous history. >> host: does it matter, larry downes, where those clouds are located? >> guest: well, it shouldn't from the technology standpoint, of course, technology doesn't care. the beauty of the internet is that it routes according to traffic, and if traffic is bad in d.c., it goes to milan. if it's bad in milan, it goes to jakarta. but, of course, the reality is that governments both national and sometimes even local governments have an interest in activities, and they like to decide that, well, if it's passing through here, all of our laws, some of our laws apply to it, and businesses are often surprised to discover that just because the data may have transitorily gone through one location, a whole set of laws they know nothing about apply to it. >> host: so how, how far have we
moved ahead when it comes to cloud computing? i mean, it's been shifting in that direction. >> guest: yes. >> host: do you see it going 90, 100% that way, and how far have we gone so far? is. >> guest: it's hard to say how far we've gone. certainly for mobile users and, of course, increasingly computing is a mobile experience in terms of both the device and the fact that it's untethered, it's wireless, for people who are mobile users, it's almost entirely cloud-based. almost everything you have is carouse-based. -- cloud-based. really your library on a kindle is out there in the cloud, that makes a lot of sense from both a business stand point and from the standpoint of how much stuff you can keep on a device at any given time. this is a good development. and i think because mobile computing is where everything is moving to, the idea of the cloud as the place where the processing and the storage and everything else happens goes right along with that. so i'd say in the next ten years, i mean, of course, local
storage will never go away, local processing would never completely go away, but the cloud is clearly the architecture that most people in the industry believe is what we'll do in the next few years. >> host: how smart is technology? is. [laughter] >> guest: technology's only as smart as the engineers who create it. and, you know, it doesn't have any brains on its own. fortunately, you know, we live in an age of tremendous engineering talent, obviously, in the u.s. but really around the world, and the ability to bring that talent together whenever we need to for short-term, long-term al kinds f proprojects, that's what driven this acceleration of technology. the engineers are there, and we can bring them to bear on a task whenever we need them to regardless of where they happen to be in the physical sense. >> host: larry downes, do your clients understand washington and vice versa, does washington understand your clients? >> guest: no. [laughter] no to both.
silicon valley has a genetic defect that it just believes if you don't pay attention to the government, it will go away. or it won't interfere, it just won't be there. and i very much face an uphill battle in trying to convince them that increasingly as more and more economic activity, as more and more social activity moves to the cloud, it's natural that governments of all levels are going to become more interested in what goes on there. so the idea that there's going to be more regulation of all varieties of the technologies that my clients build is inevitable. it's very hard to convince them of that. of course, on the other side convincing regulators which i sometimes try to do as well that they don't understand technology or they don't understand, i'd say, the speed with which it's changing and the speed with which it will continue to change and its unpredictability, that doesn't go down very well in washington. >> host: um, you recently wrote about the spectrum. >> guest: yes. >> host: very heavily regulated
piece of, well, not technology, but part of, part of the technological world. at what level should it be freed up or unregulated in your view? >> guest: well, there's always been a, you know, some would say a fairly good balance between the regulated part of the spectrum and the unregulated part of the spectrum. i don't think anyone's being particularly critical of that. we all agree, certainly the fcc from the chairman on down, understand that the mobile computing environment is growing so quickly, and it requires more spectrum. obviously, spectrum is a limited quantity. there's no real solution. we can make it more or efficient, we can be better about sharing it and using it in creative ways through technology, and there'll certain ily be a lot of that, but the fact of the matter is we have a tremendous amount of radio frequency that we don't even know who's got the license to it. we have every reason to believe it's not being used well or at all, and it's absolutely imperative that we, first and
foremost, understand where we are now, what is the map of the spectrum allocations, but then very quickly afterwards start looking for ways of getting the underutilized, unvalued spectrum back on the market so that the best possible uses -- in this case, mobile internet and mobile communicating -- can continue to grow at the pace it is. everyone, i think, agrees we're about to hit a hard stop, it may be be in five years or ten years, but without more spectrum for mobile computing, the revolution in progress will not be able to continue. >> host: if people are interested in reading your columns, where can they go? >> >> guest: www.news.com and also to my own web site where i also write about some of these things in more detail than anybody would possibly want to read. >> host: and what's that web site? >> guest: www.larry downs.com. >> host: thank you for being on "the communicators." >> guest: thank you very much.